Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tear Down This Street Sign

Berlin is divided again, this time it's about Ronald Reagan. Should the Gipper, who would have turned hundred a few days ago, get his own street in Berlin, named after him?

This is what the CDU wants, the governing party in Germany. Secretary of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has already criticized the city government for not pursuing it. Berlin's City Hall, however, is not that thrilled, and neither are quite a few Berliners. Berlin is governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Post-Communists who resent Reagan for his policies — Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran-Contra, Bitburg, Lebanon, and Afghanistan where Reagan allied himself with the Mujahedin. When Reagan visited Berlin in the 1980s, a million people took the street against him.

More importantly, most Berliners don't even believe that Reagan took down the Wall by giving that famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, no more than David Hasselhoff did. They credit either the Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev, or of course, themselves. After all, Berliners in the East stood up against the Stasi and the GDR, risking their lives, Berliners in the West took down the Wall with their very hands and hammer to sell the pieces. So a SPD politician already suggested honoring the citizens of East Berlin instead.

In addition, naming a street after Reagan is legally difficult; the city has a guideline to basically honor women in street names because, right now, they are underrepresented. So the daily Die Welt came up with a compromise: How about naming a street after Nancy Reagan? Another one could be named after Raisa Gorbachev, that should leave everybody satisfied.

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